Happy Independence Day, India!

Today is India’s Independence Day. It marks the day that India gained freedom from British rule in 1947. I am not an Indian citizen now, but I was one until I turned 21. I have many family members who live in India, and I have always felt like I belonged to two countries. I am a proud Singaporean who has a soft corner for the country of my parents’ birth, and my eyes fill up with as many tears of pride when I hear ‘Jana Gana Mana’ as they do when I hear ‘Majulah Singapura’. India is a great nation- not without its problems of course (which country is?)- and it is rich with the history of the ages that sustains its people.

Here is the text of the speech made by Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India, close to midnight on the 14th of August.

Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity.

At the dawn of history India started on her unending quest, and trackless centuries are filled with her striving and the grandeur of her success and her failures. Through good and ill fortune alike she has never lost sight of that quest or forgotten the ideals which gave her strength. We end today a period of ill fortune and India discovers herself again. The achievement we celebrate today is but a step, an opening of opportunity, to the greater triumphs and achievements that await us. Are we brave enough and wise enough to grasp this opportunity and accept the challenge of the future?
That future is not one of ease or resting but of incessant striving so that we may fulfil the pledges we have so often taken and the one we shall take today. The service of India means the service of the millions who suffer. It means the ending of poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity. The ambition of the greatest man of our generation has been to wipe every tear from every eye. That may be beyond us, but as long as there are tears and suffering, so long our work will not be over.

And so we have to labour and to work, and work hard, to give reality to our dreams. Those dreams are for India, but they are also for the world, for all the nations and peoples are too closely knit together today for any one of them to imagine that it can live apart Peace has been said to be indivisible; so is freedom, so is prosperity now, and so also is disaster in this One World that can no longer be split into isolated fragments.
We have to build the noble mansion of free India where all her children may dwell. The appointed day has come-the day appointed by destiny-and India stands forth again, after long slumber and struggle, awake, vital, free and independent. The past clings on to us still in some measure and we have to do much before we redeem the pledges we have so often taken. Yet the turning-point is past, and history begins anew for us, the history which we shall live and act and others will write about.

It is a fateful moment for us in India, A new star rises, the star of freedom in the East, a new hope comes into being, a vision long cherished materializes. May the star never set and that hope never be betrayed! We rejoice in that freedom,
The future beckons to us. Whither do we go and what shall be our endeavour? To bring freedom and opportunity to the common man, to the peasants and workers of India; to fight and end poverty and ignorance and disease; to build up a prosperous, democratic and progressive nation, and to create social, economic and political institutions which will ensure justice and fullness of life to every man and woman.

We have hard work ahead. There is no resting for any one of us till we redeem our pledge in full, till we make all the people of India what destiny intended them to be. We are citizens of a great country on the verge of bold advance, and we have to live up to that high standard. All of us, to whatever religion we may belong, are equally the children of India with equal rights, privileges and obligations. We cannot encourage communalism or narrow-mindedness, for no nation can be great whose people are narrow in thought or in action.

 

To the nations and peoples of the world send greetings and pledge ourselves to cooperate with them in furthering peace, freedom and democracy. And to India, our much-loved motherland, the ancient, the eternal and the ever-new, we pay our reverent homage and we bind ourselves afresh to her service. Jai Hind.

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tryst_with_destiny)

To India and all her people- whether they actually live there at the moment or not, whether they bear her passport or not- I say: JAI HIND.

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4 thoughts on “Happy Independence Day, India!

  1. “I have many family members who live in India, and I have always felt like I belonged to two countries.”

    I feel sort of the same; I lived in India until I was 8. (And I’m still an Indian citizen.) So, so far I’ve lived half my life there. Sad thing is I only have little snippets of memories of India, and although I feel very attached to it, and I’m proud of it for many reasons, and I’m Indian enough to understand Indian jokes, foods and the different cultures of different states, I feel that my patriotism lacks…I don’t know…substance or something =\ It feels like it’s secondhand.
    If only I’d lived there longer, actually gone through the whole process of Growing Up there, then it’d mean so much more to me than what it does now.

  2. I guess it is a litttle different for me because I never lived in India- I was born and brought up in Singapore. So in terms of national identity I always believed I was Singaporean. But the part of me that made me feel Indian was what made me attend Independence Day observation ceremonies at the Indian High Commission and sing the national anthem (I made my mother teach it to me), and it also made me wear a black band on my arm when Indira Gandhi was assassinated. I know- there was a lot she did that India is still recovering from, but for me it was enough to know that an Indian leader had died, and I was a little hazy on all the political details.

    I sense that what you are feeling is not so much that you belong to both countries, but that you do not completely belong to either. But perhaps I am wrong? Feel free to correct me if I am barking up the wrong tree here.

  3. Oh yeaaaah! That’s more like it.

    I could say I belong to Singapore because here’s where I’ve grown up and built my character, and a reasonable portion of your character depends on your surroundings and the society you live in. But I originate from India, I feel for her when I hear the national anthem, and I feel a little more comfortable, a little more in my element, when I’m around Indian-born people or in India (for holiday visits, for example), beathing in Indian air, than I do anywhere else. On the other hand!, Singapore has taught me and exposed me to meaningful things I *might* have been totally ignorant of had I continued living in India. So it’s sort of confusing…

    When relatives or family friends ask me(and it’s this super hot question everybody just LOVES to ask) which country I like better, which one I want to settle down in, which one I feel I belong in, I honestly get stumped.
    I just mumble something about both countries having their good points, or evasively recite Socrates’ quote about being a citizen not of Greece or Athens, but of the world. Or the verse in John Lennon’s “Imagine” that talks about a world without defined countries (…Now that I think of it, a Citizen Of The World is the most hassle-free thing to be. No immigration issues, nor visa worries, currency change confusion…haha, but I think I’m veering off topic.)

    (At the moment I’m not very keen on settling down in Singapore or in India, but where else can I go that I’m somewhat familiar with? Maybe time will tell. Meanwhile I have beautiful, fantastic pipe dreams of living in Scotland or Ireland or some of those attractive European locations, hahaha.)

  4. Maybe that’s the answer. Go somewhere new, where there are no expectations. Well- new expectations, anyway, because we are never completely free of expectations are we?

    I confess to imagining myself living in the French countryside. It looks so gorgeous in the pictures. But I suspect it may be a little like pictures of rainforests. From far away they look so lush and green. But when you are in one, all you can think about is the humidity and the leeches!

    Also, I think we are always changing. Sometimes you feel like you want to live forever in one place. Then you change that forever to another location. Perhaps forever is too long to plan for. As long as we have the choice, maybe we should just go where we feel like being at that point in time.

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